Hospital Wing, Hogwarts, Fifteen Minutes Later
The sound of Potions being unstopped and general malaise of the other occupants of the Hospital Wing as they were forced to down them went unheard by the school’s Headmaster.
Within minutes of his arrival, he had already sectioned off one of the corners of the wing and moved Clarke there before soundproofing it and making sure no curious soul could risk themselves while trying to get a peek.
He could not risk any more attacks by Voldemort, and so he had to keep the child separate from the others.
With all of the initial preparations made, Albus allowed himself a bit of a reprieve. He had not had a rest for hours, now.
He had experienced bad days before. There were times in his life when he had been laid low, where he had fallen down a deep hole, but he had clawed his way out of them well enough.
Whatever the bad, the good always rose in response to balance things out, in time.
Today, however, was a very bad day.
It was just disaster after disaster, and faced with it all, Dumbledore had never felt so powerless.
Bad enough what happened in France with Gellert. Albus thought, but kept the turmoil and anger he felt inside as he watched over Adam. But this… Poor boy. He must be suffering terribly under Voldemort’s hand.
The door to the sectioned off compartment opened, revealing Madam Pomfrey. Albus inclined his head to her in greeting.
“Must we put the boy here, away from all the other children, Albus?” Poppy said as she joined him to check on the lad, closing the door behind her. “He needs extensive treatment— I don’t know what it is that he faced, but his wounds are… even worse than I had initially anticipated.”
Albus turned to her with a sharp gaze. “What do you mean? Are his injuries internal, as well?”
Albus frowned and turned his gaze back to the child. “Tell me everything.”
Poppy hesitated for a few moments before sighing.
“Yes. Of course.” She said, nodding. “Cuts and scrapes all over his body; relatively minor, nothing a good dose of Wiggenweld can’t cure. However, he also dislodged his shoulder, harming himself further by setting it back— not too bad, but I had to repair the damage. His right eye was scratched hard enough and left for long enough that it will require careful treatment. Whatever healing magic was used upon it did not take.”
Albus nodded, seeing the slightest hint of red already creeping through the boy’s eye bandage. “That is… concerning.”
“Oh, The list is far from over, Headmaster.” Poppy said, and Dumbledore felt the weight of the situation hit him even harder. “His right arm has suffered through various fractures along his knuckles, his wrist and elbow. His leg has been broken and then repaired, which has caused extensive damage to his muscles, as well as his knee joints. And then there’s this…”
Poppy waved her wand at the boy’s right arm, removing the bandages and uncovering the horrific wound beneath. Albus felt his grief come back at the sight; from palm to elbow, Adam’s arm was covered in all sides in a series of severe burns.
“That is…” Albus mastered himself. “How did he get these?”
He wished he could have questioned Severus or Flitwick a little more, but the two men required some serious rest. He would have his talk with both men soon enough.
For now, he had to make do with what he had.
“Professor Snape said that Mr. Potter was the cause.” Poppy said, shaking her head as she waved her wand, conjuring new ones to wrap around the wound. “He must have been delirious; Potter is a First Year, and while somewhat talented from what I’ve heard, he is incapable of this level of magic, however accidental. Whatever caused these burns— I do not know.”
Albus nodded, knowing exactly what he was looking at. This was Lily Potter’s protective magic at play.
“What I do know.” Pomfrey said with a deep frown. “Is that such a wound will never heal.”
Dumbledore felt some dismay and anger at this. Adam had become scarred because of Tom’s actions. When Voldemort had touched Harry, he, and by conjunction, Adam, had been burned.
Harry must have been scrambling in an attempt to escape, which is why there were so many.
More worrisome was the fact that this happened at all. Had Adam already been subverted by Voldemort?
His two Professors had testified to the opposite, claiming that Adam was still in there, somewhere.
Would that not have made the body immune to the burning effects of the protective magic?
Albus did not know the answer to this. Lily Potter’s magic was a modern wizarding miracle of sacrificial magic, but it needed overly specific requirements to work.
It wasn’t the sort of spell that he could replicate in a controlled setting and so there was no real way of knowing what its true limitations were.
But if it causes permanent wounds, then it is as I suspected. Albus thought. Her spell was Dark in nature.
That Lily was somehow able to take her pure love for her son and weaponize it in this manner… Albus did not even want to think about it.
There was no need to spread that sort of information around.
“I see.” Albus said. “Very well. I will have to receive the two Professors’ accounts of the events when they wake.”
“Yes.” Poppy said. “Of course, Headmaster. Those two men’s injuries were also extensive— Professor Snape’s, especially— but they will be ready to speak to you soon.”
“That’s good to hear.” Albus said, nodding to himself. Perhaps not all was lost then. “And the others?”
Here, Poppy’s frown turned a little more severe. “The older students who have been admitted here have almost fully recovered. I’ve taken the precaution of immobilizing them with bed straps in case they are still bewitched. They’ll remain under observation for a day or two before I’ll even consider letting them go.”
Albus nodded even as the woman continued.
“Professor McGonagall, on the other hand, took a nasty hit, but she was brought here just in time.” Poppy turned his attention to his pale deputy. “I will be keeping her in a magical, induced sleep until tomorrow. If it weren’t for the efforts of the young ones, I’m not so sure that Professor McGonagall would have made it here.”
“The wound was truly that severe?” Albus said, a thrill of fear racing up his spine at the thought of McGonagall, someone he greatly respected and had grown very fond of over the years, dying.
“Just so.” Poppy said. “The children claimed that she received it while protecting them from the older students. And speaking of the remaining first years…”
Albus continued to absorb her words, feeling as if he was compelled to listen to every single thing she had said.
He owed those children as much. They had gone through so much, and so early in their lives.
The four children— Granger, Weasley, Goldstein and Li— had suffered a few injuries, with the worst being Hermione’s broken limb.
“Mr. Potter, however…” Poppy said, looking guilty. “I should not have let him out of my sight. He was already hurt when he first came here with Professor McGonagall in tow. I should not have allowed him to accompany Professor Flitwick.”
And yet, this action may be what has saved this entire Castle today. Albus thought, giving the witch a look of understanding. “You made the right decision, Poppy.”
“Have I!?” Her voice rose and Poppy stopped, visibly controlling herself for a few moments before she continued. “The poor boy— a broken wrist… subjected to the Cruciatus!”
Albus winced. His failure truly was complete. He felt an unfathomable guilt burn only for a few moments before he suppressed it. No. I will make this right, no matter what.
He continued to listen to everything Poppy had to say before he finally got a good idea of what must have happened.
“Will that be all, Headmaster?” Poppy said, glancing in the direction of her other patients.
“Oh yes, of course.” Dumbledore said, nodding. “Thank you for sparing the time, Poppy. If you require any additional Potions or even staff—”
“I have already sent messages to Pomona and Hagrid to gather what they can— regenerative plants, murtlap, and what have you.” Poppy said, waving it off even as she turned away. “I will not allow a single patient of mine to suffer unnecessarily, Albus.”
Albus felt the determination of the woman and allowed himself a smile. “On that, I have no doubt. Thank you.”
With a smile of her own, the woman finally moved on, leaving him alone with Adam. He turned to the boy, the smile dying as he saw the pained visage of yet another child he failed.
Even in sleep, he was not allowed to rest.
Already, Albus could feel the magic building within Adam’s frail body and knew that he would awaken soon.
Rather, Voldemort would awaken.
He drew the Elder Wand and moved it in a five point star, before tapping it over the boy’s midsection.
Bindings wound themselves around the child’s palms, wrists, forearms, shoulders, chest, chin, forehead, waist, thighs, knees, shins and ankles, growing taut and strapping him tightly onto the bed.
He kept the wand out and waited.
Soon enough, the boy’s good eye opened, blinking a few times before falling onto Dumbledore.
Adam’s face twisted into a baleful smirk, his red eye crinkling with a certain glee.
“So it is true…” Dumbledore said.
He hadn’t wanted to believe it, but the proof was right there in front of his eyes.
“Dumbledore.” The boy spoke, trying to move for a few moments before giving up. “I see you’ve gone ahead and restrained the boy. Afraid I’ll hurt him, old man? There is no need for worry; I’ll keep him well entertained for many years to come!”
Dumbledore’s expression began to harden as he took his grief, his sadness and despair and threw them into the hot coals of his anger.
There would be a time for sadness, but it was not now.
“Tom.” Dumbledore said with a mild, chastising tone that showed nothing of the firestorm of anger brewing inside of him. “I see the years have not served to improve your manners.”
Yes. Albus thought. This is shaping up to be a monumentally bad day.
And it was probably about to get much worse.
I broke though and found myself floating in a sea of fog.
“Where…” I said, blinking. My voice had gone back to normal. I could no longer hear myself speaking before and after the fact.
I looked down at my hands and moved them around, nodding to myself.
Everything was normal again; no strange before and afterimages, either.
I had finally succeeded in leaving the Abyss. I guess this is ‘Lifeland’. I’m back. I just didn’t expect that my mind would just be a fog. If only it cleared up a bit…
In that instant, I felt a pressure beneath my feet and realized I was now standing on a small square of stone.
Ahead of me, the fog parted like the Red Sea, and my eyes widened at the sight.
The passage itself wasn’t too long, but the walls of fog were covered with portraits of all shapes, kinds and sizes, reaching high up into the heavens.
The stone platform floated towards the closest one, and I gave it a quick once over, my eyes widening at the depicted imagery.
The Forbidden Forest? I thought for a moment before nodding and taking in a few more of the portraits: one of an old, familiar valley I had visited in my previous life; one of the sights I’d seen when the orphanage workers had taken us on a trip to London…
“I see. These are important memories.” I said. “So this is how my mind is organized, huh? I figured it’d be a little more like a computer.”
Then again, I had always envisioned cloud storage to be something like this— so it did make sense.
“Literal cloud storage.” I said, shaking my head before moving on. “But that begs the question: where’s the control center?”
Responding to my desires, the platform began to change shape, surrounding me from all sides and forming into something very familiar.
“An elevator, huh?” I said, smirking as I took it all in. I began to read the list of options on the touch screen menu to my right:
→ Memory ←
I studied the layout for a few seconds, lingering for a bit on the unknown option before pressing my finger against ‘Control Center’.
The button flashed green, and the machine pinged before a male, robotic voice was heard. “Going down. Keep your hat on.”
The elevator took the time all elevators take to get me to my destination— somewhere between too long and too damn long.
Eventually, however, the elevator doors slid open.
“Control Center.” The voice said as I stepped out onto the dark, marble floors. “Try not to lose your head, scrub.”
I paused mid-step and turned to answer, but the elevator had completely disappeared. There was nothing but a dead end, now.
I shook my head and resumed my previous course, passing through the small reception before opening the large, black, double doors in the back.
Met with the sound of humming machines, I entered the control center.
I saw wires, cables and machinery everywhere I looked. Computers lined the side walls, each complete with a screen that displayed strange, unfamiliar code so fast that I had no chance to read any of it.
I moved my gaze to the far wall, where there were two large, eye-shaped screens, though the right one was clearly cracked and scratched up.
My hand rose to touch the contours of my right eye. That’s right, It got a pretty bad cut, didn’t it?
I swallowed and continued my observations. A series of steps led down to the large chamber’s epicenter, where there was a tall, bone-white throne that clashed with the black marble surroundings.
At its base, I saw dust and the scattered bits of black marble; I followed the trail to what must have been the previous throne— it lay in shambles, but I could imagine its previous shape, well enough.
The left screen flickered to life, and I saw the face of Albus Dumbledore staring back.
The man looked to be dismayed and disappointed.
“So it is true…” I heard Albus’ voice echoing around the room.
“Dumbledore.” I heard my own voice too as the view from the screen shook in place for a few moments before settling down. “I see you’ve gone ahead and restrained the boy. Afraid I’ll hurt him, old man? Don’t worry; I’ll keep him well entertained for many years to come!“
My gaze hardened just as Dumbledore’s did on the viewing screen.
I did not pay attention to what Dumbledore said as I walked down the steps. Halfway there, the throne turned, revealing an exact replica of myself.
Well, almost exact. I thought. The red eyes are a—
“The red eyes are a dead giveaway, yes?” Bizarro Adam said at the same time before laughing. “Welcome, Adam Clarke, to your mind.”
I collected myself. This was it.
“Voldemort.” I said. “Fancy seeing you in my own brain.”
“What—?” Albus’ voice came from the outside world. The old man had a look of shock on his face. “Adam, is that you?”
Voldemort cursed, and I realized that his control over my body wasn’t as absolute as I had initially thought.
“Yes.” I called out, seeing a sliver of hope begin to glimmer in the old man’s blue eyes. “Sorry for the wait, Professor. I was held up; there was a good bit of house cleaning to get done. I’m at the final stage, though, so wish me luck. Yeah?”
Voldemort glared, annoyed at my attitude. “Do not think you can dismiss me so readily, child. You, who could not even best the likes of Quirrell, do not have a chance of winning against one such as I.”
“Quirrell might have been a little too much for me, yes.” I said, and I somehow knew that my body was smiling in the real world. “But that was then. This is now. I’m ready.”
Dumbledore opened his mouth to say something, but a gesture from Voldemort turned the screen off.
“Ready, are you?” The man said. “Let us see if your actions can live up to your words.” He said.
In his right hand, a wand of yew appeared, though he did not even raise it against me. He didn’t even bother getting up. “Come.”
“Aren’t you getting up?” I said.
“I will when I have cause for it.”
I smiled and drew my own wand. “I see, so it’s like that, eh.”
The Dark Lord did not answer, merely raising his hand and hissing into the air. A moment later, snakes began to exit from the many skulls adorning the throne, slithering their way towards me with deadly intent.
I didn’t wait for them to approach, thrusting my wand forward and crying out in challenge. Diffindo!
I cut through swaths of the snakes, but there were too many of them, and I was swiftly going to be overwhelmed. I slashed my wand upwards. Protego!
A dome of translucent silver appeared around me, covering me from every angle, and I watched as the snakes slithered up the shield, making it pulse.
With a thrust of my wand and an exertion of will, the shield morphed into a ball of spikes, tearing through the creatures and sending viscera flying in all directions.
My view cleared enough for me to see a familiar, miasma-esque spell of vomit-green heading to me. That’s the spell that got Snape.
I undid the Shield Charm just in time, stepping aside and sending a Reductor Curse at the man’s throne, even as the vomit-green spell flew past me.
Voldemort, seeing the blue spell headed his way, raised his hand in response.
The throne of bones gave a series of cringe-inducing cracks as its spine dislodged itself from the chair’s back and swirled protectively around its owner, deflecting the spell right back at me, where it impacted against the marble floor, turning a sizeable chunk of it into dust.
Looking bored, Voldemort finally raised his wand, shifting minutely in his chair. “I grow bored of this.”
He tapped his wand against the arm of his throne, sending a small stream of black down the chair’s arm and onto the floor.
The dark stream rushed along the floor towards me in a wicked zigzag. I didn’t want to wait for it to see what would happen, and so I went into motion, circling my enemy.
I blasted the throne with several spells, filling the chamber with lights of many different colors, but Voldemort merely shook his head.
The floating spine moved to catch all five spells, slicing through them with laughable ease.
“Pitiful.” Voldemort said, snapping his wand at me. “Cast your chains, fool. Feeble as they are, at least then you may put up a decent fight!”
The long string of darkness increased in speed, closing the gap in a few short moments before bursting out of the floor, aiming to pierce through my heart.
I ducked beneath it, sweeping my wand from right to left. Depulso!
The Banishing Charm sent the string of darkness flying away, but the black energy quickly regained its momentum and flew back to me.
“It will not stop.” Voldemort laughed, even as I continued to bat it away with a series of Banishing Charms. “Not until it has pierced through your heart and corrupted your soul.”
I blinked at his odd choice of words, even as I blasted the dark string away again and again.
This thing… Just like in the Abyss! I recognized its movements well enough, and so knew what I had to do.
I stopped, turned and met the darkness with the tip of my wand, infusing my intent, will and desire with the almost holy radiance of humanity’s spirit.
There is no room for foul corruption. “Lumos…!”
A beam of pure white light burst forth, tearing through the blackness and making it scream in anguish. It attempted to flee back to its master, but the light overtook the dark curse within instants, annihilating it entirely.
Standing in the afterglow, I lowered my wand, its tip instantly snuffed out.
“Cast my chains?” I repeated the man’s words, turning to face him once again with a challenging gaze. “I will when I have cause for it.”
Voldemort stared at me for a second before a smile broke out on his face, though it did little to hide the anger lurking beneath.
“The impudence…!” He said. Strangely enough, however, Voldemort was making no move to attack.
He just continued to stare at me, as if I was a puzzle he was trying to solve.
“Even now, you continue to surprise me, child.” Voldemort said. “Foolish, disrespectful and reckless you may be, I will admit to being impressed with your ability. Never has anyone countered my Curse of Shadow with such effectiveness and alacrity of movement. It’s almost as if you… understood it.”
I was going to answer, but stopped at his tone. “Understood it? You mean—”
My mouth closed again. Could it be?
“Then it is as I thought.” He said, leaning forward in his chair with an expectant look that belied the man’s excitement. “You have seen it. That place. The dark storm of death strands.”
I swallowed, not having expected that at all from him, but said nothing.
“Your silence is more telling than anything.” Voldemort said. “It is impossible for us to lie to one another, here.”
“You…” I said, lowering my head slightly. “You’ve seen the auroras.”
“The auroras.” Voldemort repeated, tilting his head in curiosity at the term before nodding. “Yes, I suppose they do resemble those.”
“Yes, I have seen them.” The Dark Lord said, his red eyes glittering with deepened interest. “Though it has been a very long time since I last set foot in that damnable abyss and its tower. And I never will again. The threads of death no longer bind me as they once did.”
“Very well.” Voldemort said, stepping up from his throne. “I see that you truly are no ordinary opponent.”
He walked forward, stopping a few feet in front of me. “You are the only other living creature I know of which has seen some of the things I have.”
“You have crossed the threshold and clawed your way back to the world of the living, gaining a higher understanding of this world in the process. That alone is commendable.” Voldemort said, thrusting his arm out. “Join me. With you by my side, there truly is no limit to the things we can accomplish together. What say you?”
I stared at the proffered limb for a second before shaking my head in bewilderment “You’re still trying to recruit me, even after everything?”
“What happened in the past is immaterial.” Voldemort said. “There is only one true thing that matters, in this world.”
“Power, right?” I said, smiling as I took a step back. “You’re wrong. Power matters, but what good is power if it is not being sought after and guided in useful directions?”
Voldemort lowered his hand. “I predicted as much. Though you are no pet of Dumbledore’s, you still share his detestable morals— or at least something similar enough.”
“No.” I said, shaking my head. “Though my moral system does come into play when making decisions, the ultimate reason for rejecting you is simple: you’re in my way. And I’m in yours. We can’t avoid this.”
Dead silence followed my statement. Voldemort only shook his head.
“Looking at you reminds me of another foolish, ambitious child from the past.” The world shimmered once, twice, even as the Dark Lord continued to speak. “But that matters not. You have made your choice. And now…”
The entire room flashed once before everything disappeared in a massive flash of white.
“Now, you will reap what you have sown, Adam Clarke!”